Ernest Dillon, a Fellow of the British Horse Society (BHS) and British Eventing and British Show Jumping Association-accredited coach, is planning to take legal action after being dismissed from Kingsbarn Equestrian Centre.

Mr Dillon claims Stewart Aitken of Kingsbarn Equestrian Centre, near Glasgow, terminated his employment last month without warning or being given a reason.

“I was dismissed by my employer on 22 January and have taken legal advice with a view to bringing a claim for unfair dismissal and age discrimination,” said Mr Dillon, who helped set up Kingsbarn last year (news, 26 April).

The centre, near Sheildhill, north-east of Glasgow, cost £10million to build and encompasses a riding school, livery yard, training and show centre. There are 50 horses on-site — 22 liveries and 27 in the riding school — and 27 staff.

Former top show jumper Mr Dillon, 61, was director of Kingsbarn until January and worked to gain its BHS approval and “where to train” status.

At the time of its launch, Scottish Equestrian Association general secretary Muriel Colquhoun welcomed the arrival of Kingsbarn, and said Mr Dillon was a well-respected figure with great profile and experience.

But while Kingsbarn owner Mr Aitken confirmed Mr Dillon had been dismissed, he would not comment on it “due to an ongoing investigation”.

New centre manager Debbie McCormack said the centre is working to gain examination status approval with the BHS.

Ms McCormack is not a qualified instructor and said there were no plans to replace Mr Dillon as a resident coach.

But she added: “We’ll bring in freelance coaches and top names for clinics and demos”.

But one worried Kingsbarn client contacted H&H to say the situation was “shambolic”.

“Mr Dillon was sacked with no notice, almost a year to the day after he started,” she said. “After all his work, the way he has been treated is diabolical.”

The BHS said it was aware Mr Dillon had left Kingsbarn but the centre had confirmed it still had BHS-registered instructors.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (6 March, ’08)